Obama Confirms Door Is Open for Prosecution of Authors of Torture Memos

The President hasn’t expressed objection to subjecting senior officials to investigation.

Photo courtesy of President Obama from WDCPIX

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


This story first appeared on ProPublica.org.

Last week, we noted that while the administration promised not to prosecute CIA interrogators who acted within the legal limits laid out by the now-released “torture memos,” it made no such promise for the Justice Department lawyers behind the memos. In remarks to reporters today, President Barack Obama reiterated his promise and more clearly suggested that the lawyers who signed off could face legal consequences.

When the memos were released last week, the administration was silent about consequences for the Office of Legal Counsel officials who gave authoritative advice to counterterrorism agencies in those years. Much of that advice was repudiated, in waning months, by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel itself as “not sustainable,” “doubtful,” “not supported by convincing reasoning,” “highly questionable,” “not satisfactory,” “unpersuasive” and/or simply “incorrect.”

Today, the president reiterated that prosecution “would not be appropriate” for interrogators “who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House,” according to the Washington Post.

But Obama expressed no such opposition to subjecting senior officials to investigation or prosecution. While maintaining his general caution against “getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively,” he declined to reject the notion of congressional investigations or criminal prosecution.

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general,” he said. If there is going to be “a further accounting,” Congress might consider a bipartisan or independent commission, he suggested.

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

WE'RE TAKING A SHORT BREAK…

from the big banner at the top of our pages asking for the donations that make Mother Jones' nonprofit journalism possible. But we still have upwards of $300,000 to raise by June 30, whether we get there is going to come down to the wire, and we can't afford to come up short.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please join your fellow readers who pitch in from time to time to keep our democracy-advancing, justice-seeking journalism charging hard (and to help us avoid a real budget crunch as June 30 approaches and our fiscal year ends).

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate